After the idealism of the January 25 revolution began to wear off, Egyptians found themselves facing new challenges in the form of sectarian clashes which have dented Muslim-Christian unity that characterized the revolution.
Since then, clashes have become the fruit of the revolution says Kirolos Andraws, a 23-year- old engineer, who used a tourist visa to board an Egyptair flight for New York City when a gang of thugs beat him and told him, “you deserve to die” because he is Christian.
Andraws is one of thousands of Coptic Christians who has fled to the United States fearing a rise in prosecution and discrimination in Egypt according to a report in The Wall Street Journal on Saturday.
Lucette Lagnado, who narrates Andraws’ story, said that Copts for decades have suffered attacks by Islamists who view them as nonbelievers but there is now a sense among Middle East experts that they have become more vulnerable since the revolution.
On May 8, 2011, Muslim mobs attacked a Coptic Christian church in Cairo which left at least 12 people dead. The attack has risen tension and fears of Islamic fundamentalists coming to power.
Around eight million Copts pose a dilemma for the U.S. Egypt receives $1.3 billion annually in military aid, but until today it has failed to rebuke the transitional rulers amid recent violence against women, Copts and other minorities.
A federal advisory agency of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom asked the State Department to place Egypt on its list of “countries of particular concern” amid violators of religious freedoms. The department declined, saying that its objective is to work with the Egyptian government to improve Christians status in the country.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, a deputy assistant secretary of state, says her department has been “very concerned with the attacks on the Copts in Egypt in recent months,” and has shared its views with “the highest levels of the Egyptian government.”
Some other members of Congress have urged the administration to take a stronger position. Rep. Chris Smith, a senior member of the House of Foreign Affairs Committee who chairs its human rights subcommittee, says America has helped Soviet Jews and Christians from South Asia make new lives in America in the past years. He believes the U.S. should do the same for the Copts of Egypt.
Father Michael Sorial, a priest at the St. Mary and St. Antonios church in Ridgewood, Queens, where Andraws made his way to says that between March and October of 2011, his church received hundreds of new parishioners, all recent arrivals from Egypt many of whom lacks security, of livelihood prospects and of essential assistance.
Around 100,000 Copts may have left Egypt since the revolution according to Human rights groups in Egypt. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service reports that refuge claims by Egyptian nationals has more than doubled this year to 835, up from 403 in 2010.
(Additional writing by Ikram Al Yacoub.)